KVIFF 2019: 'The True Adventures of Wolfboy' Starring Jaeden Martell
by Alex Billington
July 6, 2019
What if there really was a wolfboy? That's the concept for this film, The True Adventures of Wolfboy, a coming-of-age drama about a kid with a rare condition that makes him grow hair everywhere on his body. This film cannot really be compared with, say, Teen Wolf, instead it's much closer to The Man Who Killed Hitler and Then The Bigfoot – an unexpected genre mashup that is actually more of a dramatic character study than anything else. The title may be a bit deceptive, but that's the point, because his "true adventures" are the experiences he has when he runs away from home, in search of his mother, and discovers the real world – and all its ugliness. One could say, perhaps, that it is uglier than he is. But then again he's not ugly, and the film is all about accepting who we are and learning to love ourselves no matter how we look or feel.
With a screenplay by Olivia Dufault, The True Adventures of Wolfboy is the feature directorial debut of a Czech filmmaker named Martin Krejcí (which is why it premiered at the Karlovy Vary Film Festival in the Czech Republic). Jaeden Martell (also known as Jaeden Lieberher) stars as Paul, the boy with all the fur, who lives a quiet life with his loving father Denny, played by Chris Messina. After receiving a mysterious gift from his absent mother, Paul runs away from home and meets various strangers and drifters along the way - including a young trans girl named Aristiana, played by Sophia Grace Gianni. The film has epicly illustrated title cards that divide it into chapters, each one a new "adventure" as he learns about himself and the world outside of his home. And John Turturro (who also executive produced) plays the "villain" - the owner of a carnival that tries to use him for their gain as a freak show attraction to make money from guests.
There are plenty of other films like this out there, dealing with identity and teaching us to be proud to be a "freak". Another one that comes to mind is Freak Show (which played at Karlovy Vary in 2017), and while the plot is different, the feel of it is the same. Both of these films deal with the theme of learning to love and appreciate yourself in a cruel world. People will always give your weird looks and treat you differently, but that doesn't mean you can't still find friends, and can't still love yourself, and can't proudly go out into the world and be who you are. Wolfboy doesn't really do anything new or different, but it's still a solid film. The dramatic moments work well and the story is heartfelt and endearing. It's an honest coming-of-age movie about getting over the things that make us different and learning to love whatever it is that is uniquely you. We've probably all been told this life lesson already, but it's still good to see more big screen stories about it.
Considering this is a film about a "Wolfboy", he does need to look real. And the make-up in this is excellent! Jaeden is completely convincing as the "Wolfboy", not only with his deeply felt performance (underneath all the fur and skin), but with the look and feel of the make-up. Legacy Effects, the practical effects company responsible for Iron Man's armor and most of the MCU movies, did the make-up work on this film and it's impressive. I can't tell if it's half-CGI, entirely practical, prosthetic, or make-up, but all that matters is that it's convincing - and it is. Other than that, the film leaves a few too many loose ends and tries a bit too hard, but overall it's an enjoyable take on this kind of "freak" coming-of-age story. And I still think it's important for everyone to hear the message because it reminds all of us to accept everyone else just the way they are.
Alex's Karlovy Vary 2019 Rating: 7.5 out of 10
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